Alaska’s cruel winter: Anchorage sets snowfall record

Mark Brady shovels snow from a downtown Anchorage walkway on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012. The National Weather Service is putting Anchorage on track to have the snowiest winter on record. AP Photo | Apr 9, 2012

By Jason Samenow

In the lower 48 states, warm weather fans rejoiced in the record-setting mild conditions. But across much of Alaska, the cold and snow have been relentless and more extreme than usual.

After 4 inches of snow this past weekend, Anchorage achieved its snowiest winter on record with 134.5 inches. It broke the record of 132.6 inches from 1954-1955. The average seasonal snowfall there is 74.5 inches.

Stormy (snowy) weather has plagued the Last Frontier since the cold season began in October. Recall a huge “life-threatening epic storm” slammed the coast of the Bering Sea in early November. That was followed by the state’s 5th wettest December on record (since 1918).

In early January, up to five feet of snow crippled towns in southeast, Alaska. January through March ranked as the 38th wettest on record across the state.

On top of the snow, Alaska had its ninth coldest January-March period on record, more than 5 degrees below average.

January was coldest on record, a stunning 14 degrees below the 1971-2000 average. Look at these frigid record-breaking average temperatures: Nome (-16.6 degrees F), Bethel (-17.3 degrees F) McGrath (-28.5 degrees F), and Bettles (-35.6 degrees F).

February offered a brief reprieve – 16th warmest on record, 6.5 degrees above average.

But the state fell back into the deep freeze during March, when its monthly temperature plummeted to 7.9 degrees below average, 10th coldest on record. Fairbanks, Alaska never rose above freezing during the month for the first time since 1919.

There are signs of progress, though. Last Thursday, the high in Fairbanks climbed to a comparatively balmy 49 degrees (12 degrees above the average of 37) – its warmest day in almost 6 months (it hit 50 October 14).

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